Some people would say that Sheelin is the best trout lough in Ireland, some might say it is the best anywhere, the statistics tend to bear this out. In a recent study the lough, which is only 4 miles long and 1 mile wide (4654 acres), was found to hold over 100,000 fish over 8 inches of which 40,000 were between 2 and 4lbs. Now that is phenomenal. The average for the lough is 3lbs with fish up to double figures taken every year. Google Map Reference 53.804411, -7.328015
What makes Sheelin so productive? As with many of the famous loughs, Sheelin lies on limestone giving the water a high Ph. Alkaline water ensures fertility which means everything grows fast, there being so much to eat that the lough sustains a fish population way above what its size would suggest. The lough doesn't just hold trout, there are substantial pike and a large population of coarse fish which becomes important to the trout angler later in the season. Off course there is the fly population which is plentiful making Sheelin a top dry fly venue, then there is the Mayfly which brings the lough to the boil.
The fishing season extends from 1st March to 12th October. Given the statistics you would think that you would be into good bags of fish, well it does happen but Sheelin also has a reputation for being hard going. Maybe it because there is just so much for the fish to feed on. Google Map Reference
The fishing starts in March with trout feeding on shrimp and water louse along the rocky shores. By mid April the Duck Fly starts in the eastern side of the loch for about four week. Olives start in early May followed by the Mayfly hatch and a hatch of green and olive buzzers.
A big red sedge, hatches from the start of May for about 6 weeks and can attract the big fish of an evening. Caenis appear in June and July in amazing numbers which can drive the fish into a feeding frenzy (and the angler to despair) where they are next to impossible to catch. I've seen trout cruising along with their backs out of the water filtering out the caenis like mini basking sharks, the only way to catch them is to put the fly in their mouths.
By mid June the coarse fish fry are around in great numbers and the trout hammer into the shoals. August sees an other olive hatch and hatches of sedge fly, towards the end of the season dapping with grasshoppers or daddies is exciting and effective.
There is a positive feast of food for the fish throughout the season representing serious challenges for the 'match the hatch' fisherman, the best kind of fly fishing, where hard work, good presentation, knowledge of flies and fly life and a bit of luck can combine to give a rewarding fishing experience.
Best fly patterns are: March, GRHE, Mallard and Claret, Sooty Olive; April, Duckfly Pupae, Sooty Olive, small Mallard and Claret, Dunkeld; May, Olive Nymph, Spent Gnat, Murrough; June / July Green Nymph, a light coloured Greenwells Glory, Sooty Olive and silver and gold bodied flies or white lures to represent the perch and roach fry; August to October, Bibio, Green Peter, Sooty Olive, Connemara Black.
For all of that the fishing permit is only 10 Euros per day or 18 Euros for 21 days and is one of the fisheries covered by the Shannon River Board permit. There is 14" size limit and a 4 fish per day bag limit. Boats can be hired for about 40 Euros per day and their are several Ghillies you can hire to guide you round the lough and advise you on flies and techniques.